FCAH recommends adapting air quality standards to protect public health

Berne, 23.11.2023 - The Federal Commission for Air Hygiene (FCAH) has assessed the revised guideline values issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2021 and their significance for Switzerland's Air Pollution Control Ordinance (OAPC). The FCAH recommends amending the Ordinance for the pollutants SO2, NO2, CO, O3, PM10 and PM2.5 so as to align the ambient air quality standards with the WHO's guideline values (see table).

The Federal Commission for Air Hygiene last assessed the ambient air quality standards of the Air Pollution Control Ordinance in its 2013 report 'Fine Particulate Matter in Switzerland'. Based on the current state of knowledge, the FCAH now concludes in its latest air quality report that Switzerland's ambient limit values need to be adapted to fulfil the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act.

The ambient air quality standards currently stipulated in the OAPC largely correspond to the WHO's 2005 guideline values, which reflect the state of knowledge at the time. However, national and international research over the past 20 years has shown that air pollutants have adverse health effects even at significantly lower concentrations. The WHO therefore lowered the recommended levels in its 2021 global air quality guidelines (AQG) following a comprehensive review of current knowledge.

Switzerland's Environmental Protection Act calls for measures on ambient limit values and air pollution that appropriately protect the environment and the health of the entire population, including particularly sensitive groups. The FCAH therefore recommends amending the Ordinance for six pollutants (SO2, NO2, CO, O3, PM10, PM2.5 - see table) to align the ambient air quality standards with the WHO's revised levels. Two ambient limit values relating to short-term peaks in levels of SO2 and NO2 are no longer relevant and will be removed.

FCAH recommendations

The FCAH recommends that the Federal Council adjust the ambient limit values set out in Annex 7 of the OAPC in accordance with the table in the appendix (see PDF in the appendix) to ensure that these values continue to fulfil the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act.

All other ambient limit values are to remain unchanged. The FCAH is not currently recommending ambient limit values for air pollutants that have not yet been regulated. However, it supports the call for action on soot and UFPs proposed in the WHO's 2021 air quality guidelines. These emissions must be avoided as far as possible.

The FCAH's recommendations are largely in line with the WHO's evidence-based AQG levels. These adjustments will bring Switzerland's ambient air quality standards in line with the protection requirements of the Environmental Protection Act. Air pollution levels must therefore continue to be permanently reduced. Widespread compliance with the stricter ambient limit values will also require a sustainable reduction in emissions. National measures and cantonal action plans to reduce emissions will need to be adjusted and consistently implemented. And because air pollutants travel across borders, international cooperation on air pollution control policy will need to be maintained and reinforced. The EU's decision on 12 September to align its Ambient Air Quality Directive with the WHO's guideline values as of 2035 is a milestone in this regard.


Address for enquiries

Professor Dr. N. K├╝nzli, President of the Swiss Federal Commission for Air Hygiene, phone number 079 535 85 25, nino.kuenzli@swisstph.ch



Publisher

Federal Commission for Air Hygiene
http://www.ekl.admin.ch/en

https://www.admin.ch/content/gov/en/start/documentation/media-releases.msg-id-98882.html